Archives by Day

June 2024

SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Developer: Purple Lamp Studios
Release Date: Jan. 31, 2023


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

PC Review - 'SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake'

by Cody Medellin on Jan. 30, 2023 @ 8:00 a.m. PST

Explore seven distinct worlds and don more than 30 cosmic skins to rescue the universe of the brand new adventure SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake.

Buy SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake

SpongeBob SquarePants has been a consistent presence on various video game platforms since 2001, when he debuted on both the Game Boy Color and original PlayStation. Despite the countless entries that have appeared over the past two decades, including a wealth of crossover titles with other Nickelodeon properties, the game that evokes the fondest memories is 2003's Battle for Bikini Bottom on a variety of systems. That game is so loved that it remains the only SpongeBob game to get a remaster with SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated in 2020. The studio behind that port was Purple Lamp, and thanks to how that turned out, the team has been given a chance to make its own original game, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake.

During a visit to Glove World, SpongeBob and his best friend Patrick Star run into a mermaid who gives them a vial of bubbles to grant them any wish they desire. What seems like a hoax turns out to be real, and the duo start fulfilling the wishes of just about everyone in Bikini Bottom. All of that wishing has consequences, and it doesn't take long before the fabric of reality is torn asunder, leaving Bikini Bottom a tattered mess and its people scattered through different dimensions. With Patrick now in balloon form, it's up to SpongeBob to go to each dimension and save the day with the help of the mermaid who gave them the magic bottle in the first place. Of course, she has her own designs on using the rift for personal gain.

If you're already a fan of the series or movies, you'll know exactly what to expect from the story. The banter between SpongeBob and Patrick is innocent and zeroes in on naivete for laughs. The same can be said for the duo's interactions with others and that familiar repartee is upheld, since the multi-dimensional story has the cast taking on different roles to fit the dimension's theme. The big plot surprises aren't surprises at all, since the motives are telegraphed early on, but the familiar jokes remain, including the gross-out moments with highly detailed illustrations of bad situations. No one can accuse the game of veering from the show's established comedy.

Like many of the games in the series, this is a 3D platformer that takes on mechanics that are familiar to fans of SpongeBob and platformers in general. You'll start the game with a double-jump, a butt stomp, and a circular bubble wand attack; these attacks do a good job of defeating most enemies, activating some switches, and breaking apart most objects. It doesn't take long before you get more moves in your arsenal, including being able to throw a bubble to trap enemies, gliding with a pizza box, and karate kicking. The only ability that can be problematic is the fishing line, since the camera makes it difficult to tell just where you are in the swing. You'll get a better read after a few tries, but it seems needlessly complicated when compared to other moves and abilities.

Tying this together are costumes that SpongeBob wears to better fit in with the dimension's theme, like a jester for the medieval theme or his karate gear when starring in an action movie. The costumes are aesthetic, so even though you gradually get new abilities tied to the world and costume, you don't have to switch costumes to use new abilities. If you're coming in fresh from Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated, the only character you get to play as is SpongeBob. On the one hand, it works since you don't have to constantly find bus stops to switch characters and find someone with the one move you need to get past an obstacle. On the other hand, being able to use Sandy and Patrick was a nice touch that few other games in the line ever flirted with.

The Cosmic Shake does a good job of mimicking previous games and applying solid platforming to the whole deal. None of the worlds are straight platforming levels; you'll run into a few sections where you solve simple shadow puzzles by aligning the pieces. You'll also ride seahorses in automatic scrolling sections, and some of these are used quite a few times, so it never feels like they're one-and-done affairs.

The game also messes with genre conventions to make things feel fresh. The title's main audience is kids, so you can expect infinite lives. Seeing Patrick give you a bonus unit of health when you're at your last hit is pretty cool, though. Boss fights also follow that same line of thinking. You'll still get fights that end after you hit the opponent three times, but that is only a small portion of the fights. Other sections have you hit objects or are prolonged enemy fight and chase sequences.

One thing that the game improves on is its reliance on item collection. You'll still collect things like jelly spheres and gold coins, but they aren't necessary to beat the game. They form an odd economy, as you'll need the gold coins to level up to buy extra costumes with the jellies, but if you don't care much for costumes, you can skip the collecting compulsion without penalty.

Aside from some of the issues mentioned earlier, there are a few more things that drag down the title a little. The themes for each dimension are welcome, but there are a few stages that feel like unnecessary padding due to some detours. We won't spoil what they are, but you'll recognize when the game is forcing you to do things that seem to artificially lengthen the main quest. While the tutorials appear often, some of them fail to provide any real hints that are useful. When sliding, you're never told about the ability to control your speed until you stumble upon it yourself, making you take some unnecessary deaths in the process. The campaign pacing feels jarring, since your initial run through a level is filled with cut scenes that interrupt the action. Some feel unnecessary since the scene only exists to deliver a short snippet of dialogue. Shifting some of those scenes to in-game dialogue would've made the game flow much better.

The campaign clocks in at around a little under eight hours, but if you're a completionist, you'll spend much more time with the game once the credits finish rolling. Each of the seven worlds contains several pathways that are blocked off by certain powers, with the prizes being a good mix of jellies and gold coins. The same can be said for the main hub world of Bikini Bottom, which has all of that and a bonus side-quest in the form of missing sticky notes for Patrick. Considering how many passages are hidden away by abilities, expect to spend a good chunk of time exploring every nook and cranny.

Much like its previous game, Purple Lamp has done a very good job in making the graphics eye-catching. The title perfectly captures the look of the cartoon to the point where you might not mind if the series went for full CG in the future. The characters are all animated wonderfully, and the environments look stunning. Performance never dips below 60fps, no matter what's happening on-screen, and the particle effects look beautiful. Despite being on the Unreal Engine, there's very little hint of detailed texture pop-in and no stuttering. Overall, this is a looker of a game that fits perfectly on the PC.

The sound is also done well. The effects are similar to the ones used in previous games, but they seem to pack more punch this time around. The bass is more pronounced, if you configure your system just right. Having an enemy stomp on the ground or hitting them is enough to produce a thump that's deeper than expected. The voice work is just as good as before and a step above Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated, since the full original cast is now here. You'll just have to deal with SpongeBob repeating the same phrases and jingles. The music is also quite good, since it's mostly taken from the show, but it does reveal some shortcomings. The length of the levels and the fact that the melodies are supposed to be short means that the repeating of loops is more noticeable. One bug involves the music sometimes dropping out after a cut scene, which might be a relief in some situations but can be a mood killer. For example, we had the music drop out at the final fight, so while it may have been epic, the lack of a soundtrack lessens the impact of the moment.

Like a majority of games released on Steam in the past year or so, this one is immediately playable on the Steam Deck, with no pre-game tweaks necessary. The game takes full advantage of the system's screen by offering a 1280x800 resolution, and the game reaches and keeps to 60fps most of the time, no matter how frantic the action gets. The execution isn't quite so flawless, as the battery life hovers a little under two hours at a full charge and there's nothing that can be done in game to lengthen that due to an overall lack of graphical fidelity options. The game also can't handle the 16:10 screen ratio during loading screens, leaving parts of the playfield visible in the top and bottom sections.

SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake is a solid game that will make series fans happy and surprise the more casual ones. The action in the levels meanders a bit, and the platforming can be a little rough, but the majority of the action is good. The multitude of secrets to uncover give the game some real legs after you complete the campaign. If future entries are handled by this developer, SpongeBob fans will have some good stuff to look forward to in the years to come.

Score: 7.5/10

More articles about SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake
blog comments powered by Disqus